With “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints,” writer-director David Lowery has set out to make an outlaw film, and a very particular kind. The movie’s a precise, self-conscious — and often staggeringly beautiful — emulation of the ’70s work of Robert Altman and Terence Malick, specifically the former’s “Thieves Like Us” (1974) and the latter’s “Days of Heaven” (1978). If you’re going to evoke another filmmaker’s style, you might as well aim high.
And in fact “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints” has a kind of heartland holiness about it, even as you realize the story’s not adding up to much. Casey Affleck plays Bob Muldoon, a taciturn bank robber in Depression-era Texas. Early in the film, he’s brought to ground by the police, along with his wife Ruth (Rooney Mara) and a confederate; the wife wings a cop during the shootout but Bob takes the rap and goes to jail. Three years later, after their daughter Sylvie (played by twins Kennadie and Jacklynn Smith) is born, he escapes from prison and comes back for Ruth. That’s pretty much all there is to the plot.